Practical Steps That Will Make a Difference

One of the more striking details from CEA President David Holt’s recent testimony before Congress was that – with the recent rise in crude oil prices – farmers are now paying about $1,000 to fill a single tractor with diesel fuel. Talk about pain at the pump. These days, no one needs a reminder of how much fuel costs have risen, but Holt offered a sobering overview of how widespread the pain has been felt, across virtually all industries, from manufacturing to farming. You can watch Holt’s full testimony before the House Committee on Natural Resources here.

Gasoline prices recently set a new record for the month of March, leading to prolonged debate about what – if anything – can be done. We think it’s important to address one prominent argument, which maintains that nothing can be done. A number of policymakers have argued that U.S. oil and gas production is insufficient to sway world crude oil prices, and a recent Associated Press analysis helped, well, fuel that line of reason, when it said there was no historical correlation between U.S. oil production and world fuel prices.

The analysis is flawed in a number of ways but its biggest error is its failure to recognize that today’s oil market looks a lot different than it has in years past. Technology has literally transformed the American oil industry – most notably with the large volumes of shale resources that are now accessible – and have the potential to fundamentally reshape the world oil market. A recent report by the Institute for Energy Research (citing data from the Energy Information Administration, the U.S. Geological Survey, and the Department of Energy), showed that the United States holds more than 1.4 trillion barrels of technically recoverable oil. That’s five times the amount of oil in Saudi Arabia, and it doesn’t even count our recoverable natural gas reserves – estimated in the same report to total about 27 quadrillion cubic feet.

Other studies show that increased use of certain energy extraction technologies such as hydraulic fracturing could make it possible for North America to achieve energy self-sufficiency by 2030. And in such a scenario, you don’t need a study to understand that removing the U.S. – the world’s largest oil consumer — as a purchaser from the global market would significantly affect world crude oil prices, and prices at the pump.

As Holt noted in his recent testimony, a combination of practical steps including approval of the Keystone XL pipeline, increased energy development in Alaska, and expanded oil production in the Gulf, would yield an additional 2.3 million barrels of oil per day. Weigh that against the roughly nine million barrels of oil we import each day and it’s clear that we have sufficient oil and gas resources to have a meaningful impact on the world crude oil market.

The present is an exciting, and unprecedented time for the United States. Our nation is on the verge of re-ordering global energy markets. But to do so, we must recognize our potential and understand the breakthroughs of recent years that have significantly expanded that potential as well as support the policies that will be necessary to continue this revolution.